A Chinese proverb says “If you don’t change the direction you’re going, you’re likely to end up where you’re headed.” Isn’t it time for a change to how you end and how you begin every year? According to http://www.usa.gov/ there has been little fluctuation in Americas Top 10 Resolutions each January in the past decade.
AMERICAN’S TOP 10 RESOLUTIONS
1. Lose weight
2. Manage debt
3. Get a better job
4. Get fit
5. Get a better education
6. Drink less alcohol
7. Quit smoking
8. Reduce stress
10. Volunteer to help others
Has any of this made a difference? I know there are some people who argue semantics over what they should be called (resolutions VS commitments), but I believe the issue is not in our labelization, it is in our Lordship. Who’s in Charge? (check out www.mobberly.org on Sunday morning, Jan. 3 for a live webcast of my sermon on that very title). Consequently, a major shift needed to occur in my own life and perhaps in yours.
Several years ago a friend challenged me to rethink how I was coasting through the final days of the year. Since then, I have continued to embrace his suggestion and further develop my own values for this precious block of time. These 168 hours serve as a terrific opportunity to reflect on the past and reach for the future. Evaluating the roads we’ve travelled paves the road ahead.
Personally, until I reached this plateau, the final 7 days of the year had carried a hint of Matrix chronology to it. But when I began this annual tradition, I discovered the pace I operated at during these days would continue to be individualistic. In fact, as you look around you, everyone seems to be dancing to the beat of a very un-rhythmic drum during this week. The financial world is racing to the finish line; football fanatics are consuming plenty of calories and spending ungodly hours of bowl watching; families are fighting over company that has worn out their welcome, returning gifts, and taking down decorations; retailers are salivating for final sales; but in all this, life continues to happen. After recognizing such diversity, I settled into a comfortable metronome that “works” for me. Hope you enjoy me sharing it with you. I’m going to share the scope of it as it has developed in my life, but not the specifics. I am so thankful and proud of this intimacy with my Savior. Thanks for understanding.
The structure for this week:
(1) The first half of the week tends to be more reflective, and the final days tend to be more futuristic, but in every aspect of this spiritual retreat, I protect my thoughts from landing in the stagnant pond of lethargy or legalism – for example, this year, instead of lists, I added the element of journaling (hence this blog). If it works well, I’ll do it again next year, but if I become overwhelmed, I’ll go back to my lists.
(2) Each day tackles a different objective. Let this week take on your own DNA. I use it to examine my personal, family, professional, and public roles. For example, this year, I began back in the summer making notes on my iphone about specific areas I desperately wanted to dialogue with God about. (Some of which we have already discussed and I am glad He didn’t wait till Christmas). So, a pre-made list of “desired topics to cover” made it easier for me to begin my prayer time each morning.
(3) Ask God to speak
As one of my favorite worship songs this year says, “The cross has said it all.” It’s His world; I am His servant; this is His time to accomplish and communicate whatever He wants. Obviously, this is true every day of the year, but certainly a good time to be reminded of such truths. While you may be OCD (like me) and you anticipate God speaking to you in annotated outlines, this is not your time; it’s His. Think of it like taking a physical exam – nothing to hide, everything exposed before His holy gaze. But do remember that He loves you and knows everything about you already! So, if He wants to spend Dec 26 addressing personal integrity and Dec 27 addressing professional courtesy or if He wants to touch on the same area every hour of every day – He’s in charge! After all, unless He speaks to you, this week is just a long process of self depreciation or self-promotion (depending on your personality proclivities and neither of which will work for “conforming to the image of His Son.”)
(4) Ask yourself
While Herod instituted a Christmas census, this is no time for a public survey. I enjoy getting feedback from others, especially when I’m looking to build a case (I’ll get to rationalizations in a minute). But this is no time for outside opinions.
(5) Write it down
Without trying to do so, each year, my own list of reflections from the past year tends to be close to the same number of objectives for the upcoming year. To record it is essential to being a good steward of this time. Use post-it notes or write a book. Just find a way to write it down – at least the essentials. The weakest pencil led is more durable than the strongest memory.
(6) Incorporate Devotional freedom.
My devotional life during the year usually follows a textual study format (reading a passage everyday for consecutive number of days in a row, reading the same book everyday for a consecutive number of days, or reading through a section of scripture slowly and methodically). But this week is much more topical in nature. In fact, I tend to avoid devotional books during this week altogether and “let my fingers do the walking” as His Spirit does the steering.
The values for this week:
I have developed values for setting objectives (which actually frame my evaluations as well). With any good set of values, they should be liberating but not too limiting.
So read this next sentence carefully. I refuse to rush, react, and rationalize. At the same time, I insist on being thankful, truthful, and timely. As I preached on Sunday, God’s plans are bigger than ours, harder than ours, but always more rewarding than ours. Claiming, 1 John 1:9, Philippians 3:13, and Philippians 1:6, I can hardly wait to see the progress God accomplishes in and through me over the next year, Lord willing!
Job tells us that God speaks but we rarely hear Him and Psalm 81 tells us God wants His people to listen to Him. Perhaps this week could become your favorite time of the year!